Wendy Austin presents Radio’s Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster and Seven Days. She lives with husband Frank near Dromore, Co Down. She has three grown-up children, Niall (24), Kerry (23)and Clare (20).
Do weekends find you at the coalface or drawbridge up?
Drawbridge up. Indeed, if I’m being honest, the drawbridge usually goes up for me on Thursdays as soon as I finish that morning’s programme. Then again, every other week I’m back at the coalface on Sundays when I present Seven Days. I still have one child at university so I have to keep that one up — and since Clare is studying medicine in London and still has another five years to go, I don’t anticipate cutting back on work for some time.
My husband Frank has retired from the Chamber of Commerce but is kept busy — he is chair of the Northern Ireland Science Park and also the German honorary consul here, all of which takes up a lot of his time.
If you can, do you grab a lie-in?
It’s a lie-in for me — the weekends are my sleep bank. During the week, my alarm clock goes off at 4.30am, and once I’m awake, I’m awake. Nor do I always get to bed in good time in the evenings. I always aim to be in bed for 10.30pm, but I don’t always manage it, which means by the time Thursday comes around, I’m pooped.
What do you remember about weekends as a child?
During the week I’d have seen much more of my mum than my dad, so I remember getting to spend more time with him at weekends, though he always played golf on Saturdays.
We lived in Belfast but we also had a wee house in Portstewart, and we would have gone up there a lot, though it was much more of a hike in those days. Or we would have gone up to Derry to see granny and granda Austin. And I remember mum’s great Sunday lunches. Frank and I don’t really do Sunday lunch — we tend to have our dinner in the evening during the week, so stick to that routine on Sundays.
There’s usually just the two of us and Sammy the dog, who is a much-loved member of the family and does his hit when it comes to leftovers.
If you could do anything you wanted this weekend, what would it be?
Sit in the sun in my own backyard — that would be a challenge! I’d also like to watch somebody cutting the hedge, though we’d need industrial help with it at this stage
If you could buy anything at all this weekend, what would it be?
I can’t really think of anything that I want to buy. If I’m that desperate to get something, then I wouldn’t wait until the weekend, I’d just go and buy it as soon as I could.
At weekends do you eat out or rustle up something yourself?
Generally we prefer to eat in, although we might go to one of the restaurants in Hillsborough occasionally, most likely on a Thursday night. In fact, we’re more likely to eat out when we’re pushed for time during the week than at weekends, when we both just prefer to shut the front door and do jobs around the house or garden.
A night at the flicks or a DVD?
I’m afraid it’s more likely the latter. Very occasionally we might go to the cinema in Lisburn, but that’s as far as we’d travel. We feel that when you drive in and out of Belfast all week you just don’t want to make that trip at weekends, too.
I like the movies but I’m a terrible weeper. I took my children to see Free Willy for one of their birthdays and cried the whole way through. They didn’t want to go to the cinema with me after that, and I probably prefer to do my weeping at home.
If you have time to read a book this weekend, what will it be?
I love detective stories, especially Sue Grafton’s books. I’m also a big fan of Donna Leon, whose crime novels are set in Venice. And I’m currently reading a book on the Londonderrys because I’m hoping to interview lady Mairi Bury soon.
Do you switch off your mobile and log out of your emails?
I don’t turn off my mobile because it’s an easy way for people to get hold of me, including family. I’m more wary as regards computers, however. I have just got a lovely shiny new purple laptop and I’ve just had to out it in the other room because I was spending all day looking at it. Now, I’m quite disciplined about it — I check my emails from time to time and then that’s it.
Sunday morning — do you go to church?
I’m afraid not. Quite often I’m working on Sunday, which means I’m in the office by 10.30am. Other than that, whether at home or away, I like to get a lie-in.
Your perfect Sunday?
Not working. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy Seven Days because I really do, but it’s nice to have a lazy start to the day. Ideally, it starts with a cup of good coffee and then Frank makes the best Ulster Fry in the world. Since he learned how to poach an egg, it’s also the healthiest.
And when do you start to get depressed at the thought of the week ahead?
Quite early on, especially during the silly season in the summer when I start to read through the papers and think of the poor person in work trying to put together the next day’s programme. Sometimes there is precious little news around and we are fishing in the same pond, so to speak. But I don’t really get fed up at the thought of work. I honestly enjoy it and by Monday morning when I’m back in, I’m glad to be there. Plus, my co-presenter Conor (Bradford) is always good fun, and that helps.